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Weekend Predictions: Four Wide Releases for a Slow Weekend

September 8th, 2011

The weekend after the Labor Day long weekend tends to be one of the worst, if not the worst weekend of the year, but that probably won't be the case this year. This weekend we have four wide releases, one of which is a bit of a surprise wide release. One of them, Contagion, could wind up being a real hit. The other three, well, they are not opening truly wide. Maybe The Warrior will be a sleeper hit, but the other two could struggle to reach the top ten. By comparison, this weekend last year Resident Evil: Afterlife 3D was a surprise hit with $26.65 million. It's not terribly likely any film will match that opening, but 2011 has better depth and hopefully that will be the key to victory.

Contagion is the latest from Steven Soderbergh, who not only won an Oscar for Traffic, but has made five $100 million movies over the years. His track record for quality and box office success is impressive, so why is this film opening on what is historically one of the worst weekends of the year? That could hurt its box office chances, but at least the competition is weak and there's no other film, new or holdover, that has a real shot at first place. In fact, it could surprise and earn $30 million or more. Its reviews are impressive enough that if it were opening in November, we would be talking about its Awards Season buzz. With 80% positive reviews, it wouldn't be enough to be a major player, but a couple of the actors would be contenders for acting awards, perhaps the script would get some attention. Speaking of the actors, this film's ensemble cast is amazing with several Oscar nominees / winners, as well as an international cast that should help international numbers. Pie in the sky is $30 million, but $24 million is more likely.

The Help missed top spot when it opened, but then climbed into first place and stayed there for three weeks in a row. The last time that happened, not counting films that didn't open wide and then expanded, was Rain Man in 1988. (Stakeout and Flashdance had similar runs.) However, back then, the industry was very different and there wasn't such a strong emphasis of the opening weekend, so comparing the two results is a bit of apples and oranges. Or more apples and quinces. The Help won't be able to extend its winning streak to four weekends, but it should hold on well and earn second place with $11 million. At this pace, getting to $150 million is the goal.

Warrior is the only other wide release of note, and it's not even opening in 2,000 theaters. However, while it is not opening truly wide, its reviews are truly amazing and some are comparing it to Rocky. However, it is also a Mixed Martial Arts movie, and that's still not a mainstream sport. The box office success of a sports movie correlates very strongly with the popularity of the sport. MMA is on the cusp of being popular enough to carry a movie, but I don't know if its there yet. On the other hand, given its reviews, it could have long legs. Look for just under $10 million over the weekend, but hopefully word-of-mouth will result in long legs.

The Debt was a surprise hit last weekend, and with 77% positive reviews, it should hold on better than most this weekend. In fact, it could top $6 million, which is more than many people were predicting it would open with. Just under $6 million is probably more likely, but that's still a strong result and will put it on pace to surpass $30 million, which is likely more than it cost to make.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes is already a major hit, and this weekend it should add close to $5 million to its box office tally.

The next wide release is Bucky Larson: Born to Be a Star. Unlike the first two wide releases of the week, this one is not earning overwhelmingly positive reviews. In fact, at the moment it has no reviews. Some are comparing the film to Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star, but that's not a good sign. Dickie Roberts wasn't a good movie, but it looks Oscar-worthy compared to this one. It also broke a record at the box office, but not in a good way. (It had the lowest box office for a film that opened in first place in the modern box office era.) I've seen some predictions for Bucky Larson that are as high as fifth place with just over $5 million, but I've also seen some analysts predict it won't make $5 million in total. Since it is opening in just 1,500 theaters, $3 million could be as good as it gets.

The final wide release of the week is Creature, which is being released by The Bubble Factory. Never heard of The Bubble Factory? I'm not surprised. They made a string of movies in the late 1990s and early 2000s, but none of them were hits and most earned terrible reviews. This film was set for a limited release, but in a surprise it is coming out in 1,507 theaters on Friday. The sudden wide release means the distributor won't have enough time to promote the movie. There are almost no reviews on Rotten Tomatoes, and the biggest name in the movie is Sid Haig. This film has little hope of reaching the top ten and getting to the Mendoza Line might be asking too much. Just getting to $1 million might be out of the question.


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Filed under: Weekend Preview, The Debt, Bucky Larson: Born to Be a Star, Warrior, Rise of the Planet of the Apes, Contagion, The Help, Creature